Over the past year, I've seen good things happening over at Motley Fool Rule Breakers with recommendations iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) and Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG). As a result, anything with "robots" in its name shows up as a bright red blip on my radar these days. So when I noticed on Yahoo! Finance that a firm called Optimal Robotics (NASDAQ:OPMR) was set to report its Q4 and full-year 2005 earnings after close of trading on Monday, I just had to look closer -- and I got quite a surprise. Read on to learn why.

Wall Street Wisdom:

  • General consensus. Only four analysts follow this firm so far, but all of them rate it a buy.
  • Revenues. The analysts are expecting Optimal to report 60% growth in sales tomorrow, in comparison to the year-ago quarter. The target is $54.1 million.
  • Earnings. Profits are expected to come in at $0.18 per share -- quite an improvement over the $0.02 per share Optimal reported a year ago.

Margin watch:
Optimal's stock has been on a tear over the past year, more than tripling the S&P's 6.5% gain. Revenue growth explains this in part; sales have shot up 44% year over year in the past six months. But the company's margin strength has helped as well. Gross margins have nearly doubled over the past 18 months, and both operating and net margins have moved from red to black.

Margins %

6/04

9/04

12/04

3/05

6/05

12/05

Gross

26.1

31.4

37.6

40.6

43

45.2

Op.

(21.4)

(6.2)

(1.7)

3.9

7.7

9.4

Net

(35.5)

(18.5)

(9.3)

(4.9)

14.8

13.5

All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ending in the named months.

Surprise:
And now for the surprise. In a total head-fake, the company isn't even called Optimal Robotics anymore. Since 2004, it's gone by the moniker of Optimal Group. Strangely, when you go to Yahoo!'s main page for the company, the correct name is posted. But it's clear from there that the company has nothing to do with robots. And according to its 10-K filings, it never has. Rather, Optimal started out making self-checkout systems for supermarkets, and now focuses its efforts on payments processing.

Competitors:
In its new field of business, Optimal competes with the likes of CheckFree (NASDAQ:CKFR), SAP (NYSE:SAP), and Marshall & Ilsley's (NYSE:MI) Metavante subsidiary.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.